European Civil Service: Open Letter to President Barroso

It will always be the main priority for R&D to defend staff and the institution in the face of attacks by the Council looking to weaken the European Civil Service. This defence begins with awareness of the dangers that weigh on the European construction, as well as a strengthening of the Civil Service, by a rigorous application of staff regulations and with tackling the problems within our institution.

R&D notes that the Kinnock reforms have put the founding principles of the European Civil Service into question. They have materially worsened working conditions at the heart of the Commission, have set the scene for a veritable dismantling and have opened the doors to future interventions by the Council, already planned for 2012.

This short-sighted view, which has diverted the administration from the Commission’s mission when it was the construction of Europe, to a management organisation lacking spirit or vision, greatly weakens the ability of Europeans to face up to today’s challenges.

Europe’s response to the crisis enveloping the world demonstrates that it lacks any weapons with which to compete against the other world superpowers. Nations continue to affirm a willingness to work together, but in fact their decisions reflect more an attitude of “every man for himself” where everyone hopes not to be the speculators’ next victim. The only response they have found to be in agreement with one another is to reduce the social aspects of Europe.

We refuse to sit back passively while Member States strive to finish the insidious undermining work started in 2004! We must never again repeat the political errors made by the Prodi Commission in 2004!

The Commission that you preside over cannot have imposed on it the agenda, themes and priorities of negotiations that are already being proposed.

People in Europe are more and more losing confidence in EU institutions which show themselves incapable of offering solutions to problems which are fundamentally linked to the fact that Europe does not have the strength that its size and potential should give it. The fact that there is no European government by the side of the Single Currency, leave the Euro in slavery to decisions taken on the other side of the Atlantic or in China.

If, in addition to this basic lack, we add the weakening of the European Civil Service and in perspective its complete submission to policies that are contrary to a strong, united Europe, the collapse of the hopes of fifty years ago will be complete.

We need to rebuild them beginning straight away.

It would be irresponsible to start from a negotiating position of only “damage limitation”. We need to make an assessment of the disastrous Kinnock Reforms and correct the mistakes in it! To enable this to happen the Commission needs a union representation which is resolute and worthy of the name, mandated by motivated and confident staff…

We also need to take into account the difficulties encountered every day by the services, and by adoption of measures which are necessary as much to defend the institution’s credibility as to provide a concrete response to the demotivation of the staff.

By way of examples of anomalies encountered by staff day-to-day:

1st Anomaly: hiring of temporary staff for posts which should be filled by Civil Servants.

This is a matter of defending, still and always, the role of the European Civil Service from attacks and shortcuts such as the Madelin report which saw benefits in the “flexibility” of temporary posts. However, we need to recognise that the procedure currently in use for recruitment of temporary staff doesn’t always allow us to deploy all the checks and balances which would allow us to avoid poor practice. In particular, the post is only notified to COPAR for information and staff representatives are thus not always in a position to carry out the verification role provided for in staff regulations.

All too often, under the pretext of taking the needs of the service into account, we proceed with a call for candidates on the basis on an extremely targeted profile, mentioning the required competences of the person to be recruited in the tiniest detail, thus discouraging other potential candidates.

In these conditions, at the interview, the candidate who was sounded out for the job is most likely to be taken on. Colleagues’ frustration is palpable, demotivation increases and the institution’s reputation is tarnished.

Many staff approach staff representatives asking them to intervene and very often giving the name of the candidate who has been approached. Among the most striking cases, there was very recently a procedure to recruit a “wandering ambassador” at grade AD 13, a procedure which fortunately came to nothing.

Staff frustration and demotivation in respect of procedures for recruitment of temporary staff (AT) are even more understandable as these procedures are largely much simpler than the EPSO tests – or the competitive examinations – which allow the recruitment of staff at grade AC and Civil Servants, when the conditions offered at selection of temporary staff, are much more favourable.

2nd Anomaly: Appointment procedures for Head of Unit posts.

Very frequently, the DGs notify the post with a post description which corresponds with the candidate they had privately decided to give the job to. The grade of the candidate taken on is not always understandable given the importance of the takes to be undertaken. It sometimes happens that a post which had been occupied by a member of staff at AD14 may be taken over by someone with a considerably lower grade, which entails a few minor modifications to the Unit’s composition and mission.

In these conditions, it is difficult to continue to believe in these procedures and the demotivation of staff in AD grades increases constantly.

3rd Anomaly: The dramatic lack of secretaries and their progressive replacement by non-permanent staff.

R&D has already requested a detailed review to verify the number of secretarial posts which are still filled by Civil Servants and how many have been subjected to replacements which are completely random and incoherent (replacement of staff at grade AC every three years into the same post, or degrading of a post at AC from GF2 on a fixed term, to GF1 on a non-fixed term by means of a strictly cosmetic change to the post description).

Confusion reigns at the heart of the services and the frustration and demotivation of our colleagues in the AC and AST grades are at their climax.

However, the profession of our colleagues the secretaries, and the possibility to continue to give these jobs to Civil Servants, have long been subjected to attacks from Member States who see easy savings in worsening the conditions of these posts. They are continuing the destructive action which has already permitted replacement of Civil Servants at grade D by contractual agents at GF1…. the door was opened by the Kinnock Reform, so the path envisaged by Member States is now obvious to everyone…

In the absence of a clearly defined framework concerning these jobs, and a rigorous application of statutory rules, it is obvious that these attacks will only be strengthened.

Thus, in coordination with its partners in the Union Majority, R&D will propose to analyse solutions looking to put an end to these anomalies, with a particular view to approach the forthcoming negotiations in the best conditions. In effect, the Commission has ot shown itself willing to defend its role and will be even more susceptible to attack from the Council.
It is nevertheless already clear that we need as much to reinforce the role of union representation as that of DG HR as guardian for respect for procedures and staff regulations.

R&D is available and determined to examine everything, including with you, Mr President.

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